Cover Story 3
A Silver Lining in the Time of Economic Stimulus
Students and Graduates of Natural Sciences and Engineering Technology Contribute to a Better and Brighter Tomorrow
By Kate Beard Miller
As a result of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act passed earlier this year, Point Park engineering graduates are benefiting from a surge of funding for ready-to-go projects in the infrastructure and energy sectors. In contrast to rising unemployment, there is great demand for engineers across all disciplines and Point Park's Department of Natural Sciences and Engineering Technology continues to produce a skilled engineering workforce to meet the demands of the future.
After all, engineers help to keep our nation functioning in many unseen ways. Below are just a few stories of Point Park alumni and students who have contributed to the advancement of their professions, while making our world a better place.
Gary DeJidas (A&S 1972), president and CEO of GAI Consultants Inc., began working for GAI as a construction inspector 37 years ago. About 10 years into his career, DeJidas was selected to open an office in Orlando, Fla. He grew a successful business there with a team of talented engineers and staff numbering more than 100.
Today, GAI is anticipating the 2010 completion of a seven-story office building that will serve as the company's headquarters in Orlando. The company also has offices in Charleston, W.Va., Cincinnati, Ohio, Florence, Ky., Fort Wayne, Ind., Jacksonville, Fla., Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, Pa., and provides engineer consulting in a variety of disciplines. DeJidas said he anticipates a lot of opportunity for his company with stimulus funding in infrastructure ranging from work on roads, bridges and railways to water treatment and improving the electric grid.
"Another big area for us is energy. We're working on renewable energy and wind farms and we're partnering with Westinghouse on some new nuclear plants," DeJidas said.
DeJidas was honored as a distinguished alumnus of Point Park in 2006 and is a new member of the Board of Trustees. He recently created an scholarship/internship opportunity for Point Park students at GAI with the possibility of full-time employment at the completion of the internship.
Mary Grace Cesarespada (A&S '07), power systems engineer at Eaton, conducts circuit, coordination and arc flash studies of high voltage power systems to improve safety precautions in public buildings. Cesarespada is currently conducting numerous arc flash studies as part of compliance standards in local hospitals. The studies evaluate worst-case scenarios of arc flash or fire within a panel board. She then provides hospitals with safety precautions based on the study.
"It's gratifying knowing you're able to help and protect people. I like to know that I am helping to save someone's life."
Eaton is currently in the developmental stages of research for the distribution and safety of alternative power such as solar and wind technologies. For example, Cesarespada could one day conduct arc flash studies on windmills, in which maintenance is conducted on a platform at least 200 feet above ground and safety is critical.
John Nemmer (A&S '04), senior civil engineer supervisor at the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT), is currently project manager for the reconstruction of state route 65 through Sewickley, Pa., and all of the ramp structures in that area including those on Neville Island Bridge. His responsibilities include ensuring the contractors are safely fulfilling their contractual obligations and compliance with the plans, specifications and contract provisions such as traffic control.
"Point Park gave me a practical and analytical approach to engineering. The idea of thinking outside the box is something that the engineering professors always encouraged and the coursework was often very challenging and that ultimately helped me to become more thorough. Point Park prepared me to become a hands-on, evolved type of engineer, which is great for working out in the field on construction projects."
Nemmer has been with PennDOT for six years and recently served as project manager for the $60 million reconstruction of a 7-mile stretch on Interstate 79 between the Neville Island Bridge and the Interstate 279/79 interchange.
Nemmer said his district had many projects that met the criteria for stimulus funding.
"The bottom line is that we can always use funding, especially for our bridge program and the need for bridge rehabilitation."
Bradley Kughn, senior civil engineering major, is a full-time, non-traditional student. He started his engineering degree through a 3/2 program at Waynesburg University. The three-year program is designed for students to transfer and complete their degree with an additional two years at another university. While at Waynesburg, Kughn's previous work experience with the university's help desk afforded him a co-op/internship in information technology with US Steel. After transferring to the University of Pittsburgh to complete his degree, Kughn found it difficult to maintain the position with US Steel and a full class schedule. He was attracted to Point Park for its evening and weekend classes and small class size.
"The best thing about Point Park is that every class I needed, I could take in the evening or on weekends so that I could continue to work 40 hours a week," said Kughn. "I was trying to go through school without a lot of debt, trying to work and pay the tuition at the same time."
In May, Kughn's position at US Steel was terminated in a round of layoffs. However, in the same month he was notified about his selection as recipient of the GAI scholarship and internship opportunity.
"The scholarship is really exciting. Right now, everyone is tight on money and I was actually stressing about paying for my last four classes out of pocket. It takes a lot of the weight off of my shoulders and will definitely help pay for the last remaining classes. It's just exciting in general to get into GAI."
John Larson (A&S '08), quality engineer at Mitsubishi Electric Power Products, made some contacts with his company while a full-time student at Point Park and eventually landed an internship that turned into a full-time job.
"There is a lot of demand for electrical equipment because the grid is becoming older. By improving parts of the electric grid, when one line goes down, you can pull power from another. Depending on how the grid is improved, there could be a decrease in the number of blackouts and brownouts, loss of power or partial loss of power."
Ron Young (A&S '08), research assistant at NanoDynamics Life Science, contributes to the research of anti-fungus and water purification products through biological testing. NanoDynamics develops and commercializes technologies, materials and products with a focus on the application of nanotechnology-enabled solutions in the energy, environment and infrastructure markets. Young is currently working on obtaining Environmental Protection Agency registration of NanoCide, an anti-fungal material for building products.
"Point Park gave me greater knowledge in other types of research," said Young. "The field of biotechnology is growing very rapidly, especially in the Pittsburgh area. It's a great field because there is always a new virus that needs to be researched."
Amanda Bright, engineering technician at Wheeling Corrugating Company, travels from Wheeling to Downtown Pittsburgh two times during the workweek and commutes from her home in Imperial, Pa., on Saturdays for a full load of coursework in the Civil Engineering Program. Her company will promote her to engineer upon completion of her degree. She started there as a drafter after obtaining an associate's degree from PTI. Since enrolling at Point Park, Wheeling Corrugated Company has promoted her to engineering technician. Her company supplies materials such as galvanized and aluminized steel in sheet and coil form and bridge forms to contractors for highway and bridge construction.
"Now I've transferred into the engineering department where I am getting more in-depth with the actual profile and calculations that are used to find sectional properties and load carrying capacities."
William Stehle is a full-time, non-traditional student in the Mechanical Engineering Program, and is thankful his pervious company encouraged him to complete his bachelor's degree. He worked in telecommunications at Ericsson and had been in the same position over the course of eleven years through tumultuous transitions from ForeSystems, to Marconi, to Ericsson. Ericsson closed their Warrendale branch in June and Stehle plans to graduate in the spring of 2010.
"I tell you what, if I didn't go back to school, it would be tough to look for a job right now. I'm glad I went back."